SJ: Sure. Blyk launched in the UK in September 2007 as an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) to students initially, offering talk time and texts in return for agreeing to receive marketing messages on your phone. We had 400,000 customers signed up, but it was expensive and not sustainable long term. It was ahead of its time really. But Orange realised that if it was done in the right way, it could act as the glue to keep people on the network. So in August 2009 we entered into a partnership with Orange in the messaging space.
DM: OK, so how is this going?
SJ: Very well. The advertising numbers have really started to move forward over the last 18 months with revenues significantly higher on a monthly basis. We are seeing advertisers returning with repeat activity as they really start to see the value of the platform.
DM: And how many customers are opted in to the service?
SJ: The audience numbers have continued to grow over the last year moving to now over 4m opted in customers and this will continue to grow as we move towards year end.
DM: How does the recruitment process work? How do you get people to opt in?
SJ: Orange and T Mobile customers are invited to join the service and historically we have around 65 per cent of those invited to opt in who do so. They then go through an induction process which explains what they are likely to receive and how to get the best out of the service. A maximum of six messages are sent a week, of which three are commercial and three are content-based (competitions, quizzes, offers).
DM: And is there any overt marketing of the service to recruit new members, by way of above-the-line advertising for example?
SJ: To date, no, though that could change going forward.
DM: And who are the advertisers?
SJ: As advertisers have seen what they can achieve using this platform, we have seen a greater cross section of campaigns going out. Entertainment brands have been very visible as they exploit the Orange Wednesdays audience, but there is huge amount of data available outside of this that can be utilised when targeting. We are now in a position where FMCG clients and retailer are visible in the space, and other sectors are starting to dip their toes in as well.
DM: What do you offer in terms of targeting?
SJ: At a basic level, it’s age, gender, postcode and handset type. But from there, you can really do whatever you want to do, given the data we have on user’s browsing and call history.
DM: OK, so give me an example of that in action.
SJ: The potential here is huge, down to the fact that we have huge amounts of data at our disposal, based on people’’ behaviour on their mobile devices. We have the ability to build audiences around specific targeting requirements of the client. If it’s motorists you are looking for we can build an audience around people that have called the AA or the RAC, and those that have visited their mobile optimised sites on their phones. We can also tie into cinema activity by targeting customers via our Orange Wednesday data. We know there is a high probability people will have seen the cinema ad so we can follow this up with another execution via the messaging inbox. Unilever have done campaigns in this area with great success.
DM: And from the sound of it, for the messages themselves, you can deliver the equivalent of a rich media ad unit.
SJ: For sure yes, and the big brands advertisers love this aspect of it.
DM: So how do you see things going forward?
SJ: There’s still a lot of learning going on, as advertisers try to figure out what is the best way for each brand and each sector to talk to people via mobile. But there is massive potential for the mobile advertising market. It’s just over £200m right now, but the market is very much in its infancy. If you rewind to 2011, there were a few agencies and networks showing an interest in getting involved, but it’s only this year that all of them have started to wake up to the fact that they need to be across this space because their clients are starting to see what is happening in this area, and asking: ‘How do we speak to this audience on these devices?’ It’s been a slog to get to this point for all of us, but you will see the momentum build this year and next.
DM: And is the greatest opportunity to get those brands already in the space to spend more, or to find advertisers who are new to the mobile channel?
SJ: The brands who are spending will spend more, I’m confident of that. But the way we will grow this market is to bring new advertisers in, and that’s where I see huge growth potential. There is a massive pot to fish in; we have not even started.
Shaun Jordan is UK Country Manager for Blyk